Their Relegion is without Form or regularity and tho in many respects peculiar to themselves yet it may be in many respects be compared to that of some of the Antient Jewish tribes—and their Traditions which are Numerous may be compared to theirs and in many respects correspond with our books of the Old Testament—They have Images but they offer them no kind of Adoration—their Deitys are three which are Calld by the General Name of Eatooa but worshipd as three distinct persons and spoken of seperately; [they] are Calld Taane, the first or Father of Gods, somtimes Calld Eatooa Nooe (Great God) and somtimes Eatooa Munna Tremendous or Awful God, Maker of the World and all things and the Cause of all things, light Darkness, Thunder Lightning and rain &c.
Oromattowtooa, or the Son who presides over War and peace who punnishes Chiefs with Sickness and Death for any Neglect of their Duty.
Teepahooamannoo—the Hoa or Friend of both and is their Messenger to Earth—these they style Eatooa fwhanow, po, (or po roa)—Gods born of, or brought forth from Darkness or Eternal Night, to these they never apply but in time of War, or when any Sickness befalls their Chiefs, as they deem them too great to intrest themselves in any Trivial or insignificant affairs and are very Cautious how they attempt any thing that may offend them, for fear they should destroy the World intirelyas they were near doing when they were offended, having overset the World and broke it to pieces, which is the account they give of the cause of so many Islands as they are acquainted with.
Besides these, they have a number of inferior Deitys, evry Man & Woman having a Guardian Angel who they suppose to be the souls of their Departed relatives who have been Deifyd for their good works and whose business is to watch and protect them, while on earth—and as they beleive that evry man shall be rewarded with happiness in the Next world, so they take leave of this without any anxiety, and when they Die take leave of their Friends with as much composure as if they were going on a Journey.
As they beleive in a Future state so they also beleive that those who have been good Men and have been liberal to the Gods shall have the highest place, but think of none worse then Earth—they say when they Dream that the soul is absent, and talking of Dreams they say 'My soul saw such a soul &c.'—and when any one Dies they say their soul is fled, and that it Flies to the Deity who (as they express it) eats it—that it then comes out through him and partaking of His Divinity is sent to take care of some other Mortal who may be born at the same time, or suffered to roam at large through the Heavenly Mansions where it wants for Nothing.
They also beleive that there is an Evil Deamon whom they call Tee but that his power extends no farther then by being able to punnish them on Earth by getting into them, and causing Madness, Fits &ca. but that he cannot enter without the leave of their Angel who can only drive him out—for this reason as soon as they fall sick they instantly apply to the Deity to remove the Cause by prayer and offerings and apply to the priests for their assistance—and enquiring of themselves, they endeavour to rectify any little affair that may have caused a misunderstanding by sending a peace offering to those who they think they have offended, and when they have given all they have away to the Priests & Deitys and cannot appease their anger they Call their Friends about them and recommend them to the Care of their Guardian angels, desiring them to be careful how they should Offend them and to be mindful that they make much of their Chiefs and be generous and Good to strangers and frequently dye without a Groan tho reduced to the last by pain & Suffering.
They beleive that the Sun & Moon are the original parents of all the Stars, and when they are in eclipse they say they are in the act of Generation and that evry thing on earth is produced in the same Manner and that evry thing made by the Deitys at first is disolved and drop'd away and that others are producd in their rooms and that the whole systim of nature keeps constantly Changing, and in support of these arguments they say dont we see some Die, and some born evry day, the rivers run to the Sea, the Trees rot, and the Rocks fall from the Mountains—all which has Continued from the begining of the world and yet they are not diminished but others supply their places.
Their traditions respecting the Creation are in many respects the same as we find in the Bible; they do not limit the time but say that God produced all things from nothing and set evry thing in Motion by his Command—and some of their accounts of the Stars may be said to Correspond with the Greek fables. They have Names for Most of them, into which Men & Weomen have been translated for Good & evil Works, they say that a Girl Calld Towrooa, of Great Beauty but a Great Whore, was for Cursing Taane sent into the Planate Venus where she must remain for her punishment and of several others of the same and suchlike descriptions. Castor & Pollux they say were two brothers, who begd of Taanee to be taken away from their parents who had refused to give them some fine Fish—upon which they went away from home and praying to Taanee a White Cloud came and took them away; they are Calld Beebirre Maa or the Beebirres.
As they are superstitious in all their Customs and think that evry transgression against God or Man is attended with punnishment, so they have but few that may be calld real Crimes among a People who have no other law but that of Nature. They firmly beleive what they are taught by their priests and Forefathers and which they suppose to be the command of God—they know that from him all their blessings proceed, and when they approach their places of worship it is with a Reverential Awe, that would be an honor to Christianity, and when in the Act of praying always behave with due Decorum.
Yet tho they maintain that their Method is right as they are taught, they allow that another is as good and are Charitable enough to allow that evry Man if He worships his God as he is taught is in a fair way to happiness and will meet such reward as he deserves, but that this World is the only place of punnishment; they all hold and think it impossible that ever there can be an other. Their Weomen bear no part in their relegious rites, and neither them nor their Male servants ever partake of these Ceremonies; they have no place of worship for themselves, nor do they ever enter one but at their Birth, but any priest may Officiate for them when any thing ails them, and they are no less in the Eyes of the Deity then those who are admitted to be partakers of relegious rites.
Their Ceremoneys consist of Innumerable Sacrafices, prayers, Feasts &c. held on the Morai, at which their Priests always preside but before I proceed to the ceremonies it is Necessary to Give some little Account of the Morai & Priests. The Morai or Places of Worship are Oblong Square pieces of Ground planted thick with trees, and inclosed by a Wall of Stone some 4, 5, & 6 feet High and as much thick; some are piles of Stone rising in large Steps and are Built solid and Firm and the largest in Taheite is at Papaara —See Captain Cooks Voyage, he having given an Account of it I need not here Further describe it.
They are of different dimentions, and are built without Mortar, in the Center is a table or Altar on which they make their Offerings, and on one end a House for the reception of the Priests, when they Come to offer sacrifice and Feast on the Morai. In one of these Morais, which is their Grand and principal one, and Is in the district of Oparre they keep a Movable one somthing similar to the Ark of the Jews, and which is the occasion of as many quarrels as it formerly was. This Morai is calld Tabbootebooa taya' thus translated 'Sacrafice the White hog', and is the place to which evry Chief on the Island, and those who are subject to them on Other Islands, must repair to offer their sacrafices, as they think it the only residence of the Deity on Earth. This Movable Morai is a Box about 3 feet long 2 feet wide and one deep in which is kept the Three Deitys or rather the Images to represent them, as they are only for the purpose of remembrancers and are not Worshipd. Nevertheless they bear the Names of the Deitys. On the top of this Box is raised several peices of rude Carved work on the tops of which are represented Birds with extended Wings, as the Deity is fond of Birds and makes use of them to come on Earth in—and the whole is decorated with bunches of Red & Yellow feathers, which to them are as Valuable as Gold. This, with a Movable House which is part of the Morai and Fix'ed on a stand together, is Calld (Effarre attooa) 'the House of God'; they are Screend in and kept Covered with the best Cloth the Island produces, painted in different Collours and Here also is kept the Royal Marro &c. and none must approach, but the Priests on pain of Death, and even they are obliged to divest themselves of their Cloaths to the Waist, whenever they enter a Morai and when they enter the Farre Eatooa they strip Naked leaving their own Cloaths outside, and while there they Cover their Nakedness with Cloathing belonging to the sacred place, which they pull off at their return leaving them there, and resume their own.
This Morai is their principal place of Worship & Here only they offer Human Sacrafices. It has ever been the object of Dispute, each desiring to have it in their own posession. It was seized from o'Too about 2 o Years before our coming to the Island by Te'towha Chief of Attahooroo, who had assisted him to recover it from Tomaree— Te'towha, finding Himself of some Consequence, insisted on having posession of the Morai &c. and keeping them in Attahooroo which he had done till our time, and having in our time made war with o'Too and refused to acknowledge his son, o'Too Demanded our Assistance and by our Help Te'towha was reduced as before described and the Morai brought to Oparre where a New Stone one was built for its reception and there were made the First and last Human Sacrafices which they made during our stay on the Island and these we were informd had been found Guilty of Blasphemy against God or the King and these were Not Burnt, nor do they burn any.
The Walls of the Morais are as before said built without Cement and tho the Stones appear some round and some exactly squared, yet no tool except stones are used in the construction of them—When a Morai is to be Built the Chief Gives Notice thereof by sending a piece of Cocoa Nut leaf to evry Man under him, with orders that at the time and place appointed he shall appear with a Stone of the dimentions that he shall find described by the Priests and they accordingly attend. If the Stones are not Judged sufficient the order is renewd. These leaves are Generally made up by the Priests with knots, tied in a Manner peculiar to themselves, and Contain the Dimentions of the Stones that each man may work without the assistance of another. When the stones are all collected, the Priests give notice that they are ready and a part of each day is set aside for the Work—a sacrafice is then made, and they proceed in their work during which time no fire must be lighted in the District till they leave off Work each Day—after the work is finished and the Alter errected, they expend two or three days in the Consecration of it, which is done by making many Sacrafices, Human & Common, with prayers & feasts and during the time the religious part of the rites are performing no fire must be lighted, and this is observed in all rites wherein the Generality of the People are Conserned.
The Priests are of two Classes and are formed out of all ranks of People according to the Ability they Posess. They are the only People who have any knowledge and it is their business to keep the lower Classes in Ignorance; tho some are of the lowest Class themselves yet they gain Esteem according to their knowledge, or rather from their being lucky in the business they profess. The first of These are Calld Tahowwa Morai and their business is to make the offerings at the Morai and have the Charge of the Holy place; their prayers or Hymns they Chant out in an unknown tongue which the Natives or at least such as are not of their profession do not understand nor do many of the Chiefs, tho they are all considered as Priests and they seldom Officiate but on particular occasions when they are forced to assist for want of others, but as they are Plenty they are seldom under such Necessity. The others are Calld Tawra tooa and pretend to Devine Inspiration, and are Consulted on all Occasions, whether in War, Sickness or otherwise and through them the Will and Pleasure of the Deity is known; few of them pretend to be inspired by the same Deity and those who claim the Superior ones are Men of Great Art and address, and from their Skill in their Art make themselves of great Consequence. They never attempt to apply to their Deity, but when a Chief is taken sick, or to know the event of any War which they may have in hand and as they are well acquainted with most of the Circumstances before they begin they Can tell events of this kind to a Certainty. If their skill proves ineffectual in sickness they never fail to accuse the Friends and relations of the sick for their want of Relegion and Neglect of their Duty in the performance of it, but should he recover while under their care their Charracter is firmly establishd, and tho' of the lowest Class become the Bosom friends of the Chief or Party in whose behalf they used their skill, and are sent for on all Occasions and Carress'd, even tho their skill should afterwards fail.
When they are Consulted with respect to the Event of War &c. they dress themselves in a fantastical form and decorate themselves with Red and Black Feathers, of which they suppose the Deity to be imoderately fond as he always makes use of Birds when he decends on earth and having his Head bound with Rowavva he goes into a close place screend in near the Morai for that purpose, or into some thick bush where he remains a few Minutes, and comes out sneezing two or three times, when he begins to look wild, his eyes staring, and his body distorted into many forms and in a moment he seems to have undergone a most amazing Change—these postures they attribute to the contest between their own soul, and that of the Deity endeavouring to take its habitation which it at last effects and they appear as if stupid and do not know any person.
His Colleague, who is Generally a Tahowwa, then Compliments him by the Name of the Deity which he professes to be inspired with, and asks him such questions as he or the party Conserned wish to have Answered & he returns him answers in a low squeaking tone of voice and makes large demands of the Party Concerned but should he be questioned while strugling with the Deity he somtimes utters half sentances in a Curious Manner as if both souls endeavourd to speak at the same time and somtimes speaks with his natural, and somtimes in a Squeaking Voice—When the Spirit leaves him he begins to Gape and Yawn and often falls backward with a loud shriek and lays speechless some Minutes, when he awakes as if from a sleep and his body being reocupied by his own Soul He resumes his own voice, and seems to know nothing of what has passd, he Generally times it at the flight of one of the Birds from the Morai and his Colleague does not forget to inform him of what Demands the Deity has made & those Concerned seldom fail to furnish him with evry thing he required, if they have it, or Can by any Means get it.
This is the Method by which they always proceed and Several Weomen pertend to the same office and make their enquireys for their Own Sex in Sickness, and Child birth, and such is their belief in them, that they think if one of them is present, and not applied to, that the Mother would never be delivered—but instead of one they have somtimes half a Dozen who facilitate the Birth of the Child by their prayers and offerings, and in return Strip them of Half they posess without giving them any other Assistance.
When a Priest or Priestess enters a house for this purpose they always bring with them a Young Plantain tree, and having taken one of the leaves from it throw the tree on the top of the House and then enter making several short prayers, in different parts of it and stick the leaf up over the Door or entrance; they then proceed to enquire into the particulars of the business and are always perfectly acquainted with evry Circumstance before they proceed in any thing, by which means they know what answers to make whether there is any hope of Success or fear of Disapointment before they begin.